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Family sues cities, officers for $100M in suicide ruling


June 19, 2014
GROSSE POINTE WOODS — The family of a Grosse Pointe Woods woman who disappeared in January 2010 has filed a $100 million lawsuit against public safety departments and officers in Grosse Pointe Farms and Grosse Pointe Woods.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the estate of JoAnn Matouk Romain by attorneys Ari Kresch and Solomon M. Radnor, was announced at a press conference in Southfield Wednesday, June 11.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court Eastern Division, names the city of Grosse Pointe Farms, the city of Grosse Pointe Woods and 20 public safety officers from both cities as defendents.

Romain, whose death was ruled a suicide by drowning after her body was found in the Detroit River in March 2010, was murdered according to her family, and the perpetrator is still free, protected by what the family claims is a cover up by both police agencies and several individual officers.

"Both departments treated the investigation as a suicide by drowning from the moment JoAnn went missing," the lawsuit alleges. "JoAnn did not commit suicide; none of the facts or evidence support the absurd conclusion that she committed suicide; and the named police departments ignored witness statements, falsified their police reports and their investigation to make her murder appear to be a suicide."

Referring to the alleged perpetrator only as "Suspect One," and an unnamed Grosse Pointe Woods police officer as "John Doe," the suit alleges that the departments and officers "acting in concert with each other, acted purposely with the intent of creating a danger to JoAnn by making it known to John Doe that they would immediately cover up the murder and rule it a suicide." It also alleges that "there are several points that prove the police knew about the murder beforehand and had agreed with the killer that they would immediately get on it and rule it as a suicide."

Romain disappeared the night of Jan. 12, from St. Paul on the Lake Catholic Church in Grosse Pointe Farms, where witnesses said she had attended evening Mass. Her car, with her purse on the front seat, was found parked in the driveway of the church. Grosse Pointe Farms police said they found footprints in the snow that allegedly matched Romain's that led to the lake. Her body was found two months later in the Detroit River near Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada. Based on that information and the results of an autopsy conducted by the Ontario medical examiner, they ruled her death a suicide by drowning.

Romain's daughter, Michelle, has continually challenged the determination that her mother committed suicide.

"The weeks preceding her disappearance she had told us that she felt as if she was being followed and if anything happened to her to make sure that we followed through," Michelle Romain said at the press conference. "I made a vow to my siblings and to God that I would follow through."

According to Woods city administrator Skip Fincham, the city has not yet been served with the lawsuit.

"I am only aware of the lawsuit from media reports and inquiries," Fincham said. "Having not received an official complaint, I have no comment. If I was in receipt of a complaint, I would not comment on issues under litigation."

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